Births, weddings, and deaths in Czechia

Are you new to the Czech Republic? Here are some basic facts about family life that might be helpful.

Photo illustrative: Kristýna Maková,  Radio Prague International

The birth of a child is naturally a significant event. During communism, it was not allowed for dads to be present in the hospital room for the birth of their child, but now it is common. After being born, a child must be registered and receive a birth certificate. The Czech system does not allow for a child to have two last names, as is quite common in Spain and Portugal, for example. Maternity leave is unusually long in comparison with other countries. A Czech may spend up to four years at home with their child. Abortions are permitted up to the twelfth week of pregnancy.

Photo: Stanislava Brádlová,  Czech Radio

Czech society is characterized by its low religiosity (59 % of citizens identified as atheists at the 2011 census). This manifests itself in different aspects of society, such as in Czechs’ liberal views on abortions and sexual minorities. But it is also the cause of the relatively low number of baptisms on the one hand and the high share of cremations (which make up 97 % of all funerals in Prague) on the other. Wedding ceremonies take slightly different forms in various parts of Czechia. Couples can choose to have a church or civil ceremony, and the groom and bride must both be at least eighteen years old. Breaking plates is one of the most common wedding traditions and is said to bring good luck. Another popular tradition is the throwing of rice on recently married couples. A few non-Czech traditions are also common, such as bachelor and bachelorette parties, the throwing of flowers by the bride, and the couples’ first dance. A widespread superstition is that weddings held in May lead to unlucky and sorrowful marriages.

After getting married, women typically take their husband’s last name with the suffix “ová” added to it. In the past, Czech law allowed practically no exceptions to this rule, but now a woman can choose to keep her maiden name. The conjugation of women’s names has been a frequent topic of discussion in Czechia in recent years. Interestingly, the rules of Czech grammar also prescribe adding the suffix “ová” to the last names of foreign women. So Czech media often write of Angela Merkelová, Michelle Obamová, or Catherine Deneuveová.

Photo: Kristýna Maková,  Radio Prague International

Same-sex couples can choose to enter into a registered partnership. Public opinion polls have shown that the Czech public is open to same-sex marriages, but Parliament has so far not passed the required legislation. Same-sex couples are also not allowed to adopt kids.

The Czech Republic has a relatively high divorce rate, with almost one in every two marriages ending in divorce. A death is typically followed by a funeral ceremony several days later. Sometimes a funeral dinner is also held. Guests usually wear black and give their condolences to the bereaved. Funerals, especially religious ones, can be quite expensive in Czechia.

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